Stretching Out Daniel Bard

'Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Daniel Bard (51)' photo (c) 2011, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/This weekend Bobby Valentine spoke clearly about Daniel Bard entering 2012 spring training looking to be stretched out as a starter. While many had speculated about this possibility there was no clear final decision until now. This decision answers some questions about the two spots open after injuries to John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka, but also raises some questions as well.

Recent attempts to move young arms from the pen to the rotation or vice versa have been dangerous as seen with Jonathan Papelbon, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain or Felix Doubront. These injuries seem to be from repeated adjustment to different roles and usually happen after 2-3 changes. If Bard is not successful as a starter the Red Sox will need to be very cautious in returning him to the reliever role.

The history of Bard as a starter is not very encouraging. His last game started was in 2007 during his first year in minor league ball. He threw 75 innings in A and High A ball, but with a K/9 of 5.64 he was not the Bard we know with a 99 mile per hour fastball and strikeout rate over one per inning. He was moved to the pen in 2008 and has dominated since with strikeout rates in the teens for the next few seasons.

Even as a mediocre starter he would be more valuable to the team, but his history shows someone much worse than mediocre and his walk rate as both a starter and a reliever demands someone who can strikeout nearly a batter an inning. If he cannot and continues to walk 4 or more batters every nine innings he will not only take Matsuzaka’s place in the rotation, but be the next Matsuzaka.

Bard will no longer be able to throw as hard as he will need to conserve his arm for 6+ innings. With a 95-96 mile per hour fastball he will need to develop a third pitch to throw. Currently Bard throws a fastball over 70 percent of the time and his slider. He also mixes in a changeup, but so far that pitch has mainly been a pitch to keep hitters honest and needs more work.

You don’t have to look far for pitchers like Bard who have been successful in this switch. Former Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson mainly throws a sinking fastball and slider and hs largely eliminated his changeup even as a starter. He gets a few more groundballs than Bard with his sinking action, but could be a model for him as he has previously struggled with walks.

Masterson has had more seasoning as a starter with 36 games started in the minors compared to Bard’s 22, making his return to the rotation difficult to judge. It’s tough to condemn him for 75 innings with a poor strikeout rate when it was his first season and it was also five years ago. It’s highly unlikely he doubled his K/9 just by moving to the pen. If I had to set a realistic outlook for Bard would be 20-25 games started with a K/9 between 7-8 and a BB/9 between 2.5-3.5. This looks a lot like Justin Masterson and depending on his groundball rates his ERA should be around 4.00 or better.

I was not a big fan of this move initially, but Bard could be a solid answer to the rotation issues and is a much better choice than Aceves for the number 4 spot. If he does struggle thought the Red Sox must think long and hard about the consequences of returning him to the pen. The Red Sox now require one more arm for the rotation and plenty of arms to fill the pen as they have lost their setup and closer, but benefit financially by filling the rotation spot on the cheap.

Categories: Boston Red Sox Daisuke Matsuzaka Daniel Bard Jonathan Papelbon

After taking an interest in sabermetrics and statistical analysis Troy began trying to use it to an advantage in fantasy baseball. He started the website RotoSavants.com and also spent time at HardballTimes.com and FantasyPros911.com. After a few years the interest in the Red Sox drew him to start a Red Sox-oriented site (Yawkey Way Academy) with fellow writer Lee Perrault. A short time later he joined Fire Brand. Writer from: December 14, 2009 – July 24, 2010, March 3, 2011 – May 10, 2012.

7 Responses to “Stretching Out Daniel Bard” Subscribe

  1. marcos December 12, 2011 at 1:16 PM #

    i don't think you proofread this article

  2. ChipBuck December 12, 2011 at 3:02 PM #

    @Troy – My problem is that I don't know if it's really fair to assume Bard can't start because of what happened when he was pitching in A ball during the 2007 season. Sure, it's scary, but he's gone back to his old mechanics. His command is much better these days, although it does escape him at times. I'm not a huge fan of the move, but I think it's the best one for all parties involved. I'd prefer to see him out of the number five spot for 2012, just because it gives the Sox a chance to skip him in the rotation every so often; thus limiting his innings.

    • TroyPatterson December 12, 2011 at 3:08 PM #

      Yeah I agree what we saw after A ball is probably more relevant than saying he doubled his K/9 by going to the pen.

      Whatever happens it's a better option than moving Aceves to the rotation.

  3. Cory December 12, 2011 at 8:57 PM #

    Given the facts against him being a starter, why don't we just leave him in the pen. Then we can move Aceves into the rotation.

    His number last year, albeit a small sample, as a starter where comparable to an Anibal Sanchez or a….Kuroda.

    I understand his great value as a long reliever, but he can be even more valuable as a starter.

    • TroyPatterson December 13, 2011 at 10:26 AM #

      What numbers do you see that say Aceves was good in the rotation?

      His K/BB was 1, his ERA was 5.14 (for what that is worth) and his xFIP was 6.33.

      At no point while starting was Aceves like either of those pitchers.

  4. Clinton Riddle December 12, 2011 at 9:47 PM #

    I like this move a whole lot better than having Aceves there. I really think Bard can do it. 25 starts and sub-4.00 ERA seems like a fair estimate, as long as he can curb his velocity a bit and change his mound philosophy. I believe he can make the move.

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  1. Rotation Links: Rodriguez, Rangers, Bard, Moore « The Rotation - December 14, 2011

    [...] Stretching Out Daniel Bard “I was not a big fan of this move initially, but Bard could be a solid answer to the rotation issues and is a much better choice than Aceves for the number 4 spot. If he does struggle thought the Red Sox must think long and hard about the consequences of returning him to the pen.” [...]